An Orange County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that a controversial potential Huntington Beach charter amendment that would require a voter ID can in fact go before the voters in the March primary election.

Judge Nick Dourbetas denied Huntington Beach resident Mark Bixby’s application for a writ of mandate or a temporary injunction. Time was an important element, as the Orange County Registrar of Voters office asked for a decision by Friday to allow enough time for ballots to be printed.

Bixby, a former planning commissioner, filed suit in November challenging the proposed charter amendment. But Dourbetas wrote in his ruling that typically judges don’t intervene or review ballot measures before an election, citing a California Supreme Court decision from 1982, Pacific Legal Foundation vs. California Coastal Com.

“As such, this court declines to intervene at this stage, and holds that the issues raised in the resolution should be allowed to proceed,” Dourbetas wrote. “If this measure were to pass, and if its implementation raises an issue of constitutionality, at that point, it may be appropriate for judicial review.”

In a statement after the ruling, Bixby vowed to keep fighting. His claim for declaratory relief remains active.

“A municipal voter ID law is wrong,” Bixby said. “It violates the constitutional rights to vote and state law, and we intend to ensure that it never gets imposed in the city of Huntington Beach. Voters should vote down this nonsense, and if they don’t we will make sure that the courts strike it down.”

Huntington Beach City Atty. Michael Gates said Thursday that the judge’s ruling echoed his office’s arguments, that the courts shouldn’t interfere with democracy and the voter approval process and that it was too early to argue the constitutionality of the amendment.

“It’s a big win,” Gates said. “It’s particularly a big win because Mark Bixby likes to go out on social media and take early victory laps. He’s very proud of himself for even filing the lawsuit ... [but] the court didn’t give him what he wanted. Your whole lawsuit was denied.”

The American Civil Liberties Union and Disability Rights California had filed an amicus brief in support of Bixby’s petition, stating in part that voter ID laws imposed severe burdens, particularly on Latino, Black, young and low-income voters. It also noted that there was very little evidence of voter fraud.

Charter Amendment Measure 1, approved for the ballot by the Huntington Beach City Council on a 4-3 vote in early October, also brings up other ways of further localizing city elections. It states that Huntington Beach may provide more in-person voting locations and monitor ballot drop boxes for municipal elections, beginning in 2026.

Bixby’s attorney, Lee Fink, argued the voter ID provision was in clear conflict with both state law and the elections code, calling it outside the city’s authority. California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta and Secretary of State Shirley Weber had issued a similar warning before October’s council vote.

Huntington Beach Senior Deputy City Atty. Peggy Huang argued Thursday for the defense that although Bixby was a voter in the city, he hadn’t shown that he would be harmed by the proposed charter amendment.

Szabo writes for Times Community News.